Rosarito-Ensenada Trip Report: By Miguel Castro

A few months ago, I found myself in a new place in my walk with The Lord. Nothing was going wrong, but something was still not quite right. Looking back on it, that was likely the reason that I felt so strange. Since recommitting myself a few years ago I had been growing dramatically in my spiritual life. There was no time when I did not feel as more and more was being revealed to me. And then it suddenly stopped. I felt as though I was doing everything right and yet that positive reinforcement was now escaping me. I pleaded for more. No answer.

It was at around this time that Sam began to talk to me about the Rosarito-Ensenada ride. From his report from last year, I knew this was meant to be a fundraiser for Siloe Ministries, which is something I am thoroughly uncomfortable doing. On top of that I was fairly well involved with my church and I just felt like I had no time for another “church function.” Even so, something kept tugging at me and I eventually agreed to help out.

When Rich sent me the particulars on the ministry something clicked. Seeing the progress on the wellness center project was inspiring. I felt a need to help as best I could. That same day I sent out a shotgun message on Facebook hoping to get a response or two. I waited a week and got nothing. Still I was committed to contribute; I drafted personal messages on Messenger to a few of my closest brothers and sisters at church. One response that day. Progress, finally. Against every fiber of my being I moved on to sending text messages to another batch of brothers and sisters. I even circled back and verified with a few of the first group if they had seen my first message. One more response. Going into the week before the trip I felt pretty bad, however, as we were still a good amount from the goal. Yet the fundraising aspect was just one of my worries.

As the road trip drew near I started feeling a bit nervous. Driving to Mexico, with a guy I did not know too well and his young son was way out there for me. I have driven with my own father for hundreds of miles at a time with scarcely a single word being spoken, and my pops and I are actually pretty close; we just don’t talk much. I tried to schedule a “get-to-know” dinner between the two families in the hope that this would assuage having to come up with 9 hours’ worth of conversation for the trip, but of course, it would not work out. As it turned out, for a self-professed introvert, Rich is actually pretty chatty. The man had interesting stories to spare, including the one that got him to step out in faith by combining cycling and a medical clinic serving the poor of Baja California. We hit it off and the trip turned out to be a great fellowship opportunity. Before we knew it, we were just outside of Los Angeles and we hit the border just before sundown. We arrived at Brendan and Sarah’s home at around 8 o’clock or so.

Brendan was Rich’s college roommate and Sarah is Amy’s (Rich’s wife) sister. Due to the English language’s lack of richness, this makes Brendan and Rich just brothers-in-law. Fortunately, however, the Spanish language actually has a specific term for this relationship and Rich and Brendan are “concuños.” As if this relationship were not serendipitous enough, Rich is from Redlands, California and I attended the University of Redlands for undergrad, while Brendan attended the U of R for his graduate degree. I also did some overnight shifts for my pre-med studies at Loma Linda University’s emergency room, while Sarah got her degree from Loma Linda. Needless to say, I felt right at home that very first night.

My first full day in Mexico was chocked full. We were to visit the current location of the clinic at a local church, tour the construction site of the wellness center, tour a local orphanage, register for the ride, and attend church at a men’s recovery center. Somewhere in there we would also try and grab a bite of local fare.

Visiting the current siting of the clinic was a humbling experience. My mind just could not wrap itself around the smallness of the two rooms in which more than 2,000 patients are served every year. My eyes welled up as I heard story after story of how individuals were mere days from a certain, and likely unceremonious, death when they arrived at Siloe and how the staff worked tirelessly to line up health care either in Mexico or the US. Arriving at the construction site was an eye-opening experience – I could not have imagined from the pictures and videos the sheer audacity of stepping out in faith to build not just a place to care for the people of La Mision and beyond, but to build a place for the community to gather and perhaps fellowship was just bold.

From the construction site, we went to Door of Faith Orphanage. The campus was huge and I was taken back by the number of children there; over 100 were living there at the time. Perhaps I was just naïve, but I could not understand how a relatively stable country with resources such as petroleum and tourism could have such a large need for abandoned and abused children. Even today I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it.

Visiting both the clinic and the orphanage was cathartic for me. I looked back at the last few months of my life, how I had prayed for a breakthrough of sorts. How I wanted more of Him. Here it was in front of my eyes. I was not necessarily considering dropping my cushy life and moving my family to Mexico, but I realized that I could actually do some things to vastly improve the lives of my fellow man. I thought about James 2:26, “…faith without works is dead.” Throughout the rest of the trip I considered how I could help.

The day was capped with a visit to a local church at a men’s recovery center. The praising, the message, the fellowship afterward was a fine end to a spiritually fulfilling day.

The day of the ride started extremely early for me. I was up at around six and the ride did not start until 10 am. I was looking forward to a few hours on the saddle to assess the previous day. As it turned out the sheer number of riders with varying skills made that nearly impossible. Within the first mile an older lady had fallen. We also had more than a few riders bidding to break the course record and taking some really silly risks. My guard was up for a good part of the ride after a group of riders passed me on the left with inches to spare between myself and the divider. As it turned out this worked out well as I pretty much just settled into a slow pace and had several opportunities to speak with both Rich and Brendan.

The ride course passed on the main road to La Mision and we stopped for a photo op at the construction site just before the big climb. It was a nice break at about the midpoint of the ride. The climb of El Tigre was a nice little workout. The Mexican authorities did an excellent job controlling traffic and the riders were given plenty of room to spread out according to their abilities. Rich, Brendan, Graedon, and I swapped positions several times. We all made it to the top of the plateau within a few minutes of each other. It was at this point that I noted the only negative to the day; the temperature had to be in the low fifties and the wind was howling. The unusual weather along with the quick shower we got just before we stopped at La Mision was starting to have its effects. I was not looking forward to the descent into Ensenada. The weather turned dramatically, however, on the other side of the hill and the descent was fun. Being able to take both side of the road made me feel like a pro. Once we hit the coast, I was once again amazed at how a non-pro event had basically shut down the main highway going into Ensenada; the riders had a whole lane to ourselves.

The finish was pretty epic with the red balloon arc and the crowds cheering the riders on. All in all, the ride was pure fun. Not as challenging as some of us might demand, but still worth the experience.

After arriving back home, my family and I went to dinner and I recounted my experience. Particularly, I spoke to them about the good work being done by the many individuals that volunteer a part of their lives to help others and to spread the Gospel.

Today I no longer feel that longing that I had before going to Mexico. I feel that the trip was about The Lord reaffirming my role in his plans. I know now that the Gospel is about more than just me and my personal needs. That I will go through periods when God may not speak directly to me. I have learned to trust in Him in those quiet times, knowing that He is still there working out His perfect will for all of us.

 

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